By NATION REPORTERS
THE deadly coronavirus is escalating because most Zambians still think it’s a hoax and therefore ignore prevention guidelines and only the minority are following the rules, the Medical for Quality Healthcare in Zambia (MQHZ) has said.
And Ministry of Transport Permanent Secretary Misheck Lungu has urged the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the presidential directive for people to mask up in public is enforced because his ministry has already provided policy guidelines which people are ignoring,
MQHZ director Dr Quincy Mwabu said more effort is needed by all stakeholders to improve on sensitization through packaging of effective messages which will hit the right cord with ordinary Zambians including people in rural areas.
He observed that only medical personnel appreciated just how serious and dangerous the covid19 pandemic was .
The doctor was reacting to the Daily Nation survey which showed that Zambians have ignored preventive measures against Covid-19.
A Daily Nation countrywide survey has shown that public buses and taxis are operating in total disregard of the health guidelines against the spread of coronavirus. Mr Lungu said law enforcement officers should come in and enforce the directive for bus drivers and commuters comply in regard to masking up,
Speaking in an interview Mr Lungu said that the role of the ministry is to give directive and leave it in the hands of law enforcers to enforce the law.
He observed that unlike shopping malls which are complying with guidelines, compliance among bus drivers and commuters remains low.
Mr Lungu said that just like what happens in shops where owners don’t allow customers without masks, bus drivers should not be allowing passengers without masks to get on their buses.
Mr Lungu stated that the directive by his ministry was in the best interest of all citizens.
“For us we only give directive we don’t have power to enforcethe law but as a ministry the directive is in the best interest of the general public.
“If you are getting on a bus put on mask, owners of shops don’t allow customers to enter without masks bus drivers can do the same, they have the power to send passengers without masks off the bus.
“As good corporate citizens make sure passengers comply because if one passenger has the virus, it means all the passengers will be infected, it’s not the government that will get sick,” he said.
And the Daily Nation can reveal that motorists have continued disregarding Covid-19 preventive measures. A spot check by the Daily Nation revealed that most motorists and passengers in all parts of the country were defying Government orders for passengers on buses to mask up and for buses to reduce on the loading capacity.
Government has ordered that public transport restrict the number of passengers to stipulated numbers, and ensure that all passengers mask up among other measures.
Other Government directives include routine sensitization of passengers on Covid-19, ventilation and mandatory temperature reading.
In Lusaka, only a few passengers had their masks on while temperature reading and sanitizing were completely disregarded.
At both City Market and Lima Tower bus stations, passengers without masks were being allowed on buses and no sanitary measures had been put in place.
A check at Muyombe and Kasama Stations in Isoka found long distance operators carrying Kasama and Mafinga bound passengers without face masks.
The two stations do not have hand washing facilities or sanitizers and the buses have also continued to overload passengers.
A motorist, Elias Kaira said it has been difficult to implement the Covid-19 guidelines because most passengers were coming without face masks and business was slow.
Mr Kaira appealed to stakeholders to donate facemasks to transporters so that they can be giving them to commuters who come without masks.
In Kabwe, compliance levels from passengers are also below average.
A check on buses on the Makululu route found that only 20 percent of the passengers had masked up while some had the masks either on their chins or in bags and pockets.
Alias Sikanyika , a bus driver, said passengers were waiting to be told to mask up by either the driver or conductor..
James Chirwa, a bus conductor on the Makululu and Mukobeko route said some people shun wearing masks because they still entertained the thought that the coronavirus was not real.
“People know about coronavirus and that they should put on face masks when on public transport but I think the problem is that some still think that it’s not real and such people are difficult to convince,” he said.
Matthews Banda, a pirate taxi driver however said he has taken it upon himself to ensure that passengers in his taxi wear face masks to protect themselves and others.
Mr Banda however stated that some passages bluntly refuse to wear a face mask saying they would rather risk being exposed because breathing becomes difficult with a mask on.
And despite the Copperbelt being one of the top epicentres for the pandemic, compliance on wearing of masks on public transport leaves much to be desired.
A check yesterday revealed that less than 50 percent of passengers in buses were masked up. Many passengers get on public transport without putting on masks including the drivers and their assistants.
Other passengers were seen with masks hanging on their chins while others were keeping them in their hands and only get to wear them when approaching a police roadblock or as they drop off to get into certain shops. Drivers talked to complained that many passengers were refusing to wear masks with an excuse that they do not breath properly in masks.
Others were heard still doubting the existence of the pandemic and publicly say that they only carry masks with them just in case they meet with police or want to get into supermarkets as well as other offices.
In Mkushi, masking up is considered extremely odd, thosewho wear masks are mocked and life is going on in the old normal.
A check revealed that only a snippet of bus and taxis drivers were complying while the rest, including passengers did not have masks on.
Some public bus operators however were equipped with sanitisers and ensuring that passengers were sanitized before embarking.
“Some colleagues do not take coronavirus seriously hence do not comply with measures put in place. They think it is a hoax,” a taxi driver, Daniel Kalunga said.
The Bus Drivers and Taxis Association Mkushi District chairperson, Moses Banda urged members to comply with government health guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives of passengers.
On a positive note, public transport operators in Ndola have started enforcing new preventive measures as announced by Government.
The bus and taxi drivers are now ensuring that passengers mask up and wash their hands before boarding their vehicles.
A check found wash basins at stations such as Chisokone, Mulungushi and Broadway to ensure that passengers washed their hands and wore masks before boarding the buses.
Broadway station showed highest compliance levels as transport operators were not compromising any preventive measure.
Compliance was however low by bus and taxi drivers who were pirating and picking passengers on the roadsides.
Samuel Banda, a conductor at Mulungushi bus station, said the transporters had all agreed to enforce the law and not compromise on issues of adherence. Mr Banda said the measures to mask up and wash hands were not a form of dictatorship but something that was for the good of the people.
And James Kabwe, a taxi driver at Chisokone station, said that many passengers were reluctant in washing their hands and masking up.
Mr Kabwe noted that despite the availability of wash basins, some passengers opted not to wash their hands and once they boarded, removed their masks or left them hanging.